Washington, DC and Copenhagen, Denmark: A Dutch court yesterday ordered the criminal prosecution of Geert Wilders, Dutch parliamentarian and leader of the Freedom Party (PVV), for his statements - written, spoken and filmed -regarding Islam. The Amsterdam Court of Appeals has deemed such statements "insulting," declaring that they "substantially harm the religious esteem" of Muslims.
Clearly, the effect of this Dutch court order is to set new limits to public debate in Dutch society, in this case about the highly controversial but nonetheless crucially important subject of Islam. This makes the prosecution of Geert Wilders an unacceptable breach of the sanctity of freedom of speech in Western society.
Having ordered a criminal prosecution for the opinions of a duly elected leader of a legitimate political party, Dutch authorities have dealt a devastating blow to political expression. While Dutch prosecutors prepare their indictment and Geert Wilders' future hangs in limbo, who in The Netherlands will dare discuss political and cultural matters related to Islam - Islamic law, Islamic integration, Islamic crime, Islamic policy - openly, freely and fearlessly? The chilling effect is instantaneous. If, indeed, Wilders is ultimately convicted, free speech will cease to exist in the heart of Europe.
The International Free Press Society believes this court-ordered prosecution against Geert Wilders, a central figure in the fight against the Islamization of the West, amounts to a dangerous concession to the strictures of Islamic law, which prohibits all criticism of Islam, over Western traditions of, and rights to robust and unfettered debate. As such, it is tantamount to a surrender to totalitarian influences that undermine all Western freedoms. And as such, it must be resisted.
It is important to recall recent history. Two Dutchmen, Pim Fortuyn and Theo van Gogh, have been murdered for their outspoken opposition to Islamization in The Netherlands. Another Dutch politician, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, has been infamously forced into exile. Wilders alone now carries this debate over Islam in Dutch society forward - forcefully but logically, outspokenly but reasonably, and always peacefully. In order to do so, this member of Dutch parliament lives in a virtual prison, consigned to 24-hour guard by Islamic death threats against his life. Now, Dutch authorities have ordered him to be prosecuted for the Orwellian crime of committing "insulting" words.
As Wilders puts it, "If I have to stand trial, I will not stand trial alone, but also with the hundreds of thousands of Dutch people who reject the Islamization of The Netherlands." He will also stand trial with those in The Netherlands and beyond who reject government prosecutions of free speech. In recognition of this dire situation, the IFPS immediately calls on every supporter of free speech to come to the aid of Geert Wilders. To assist in this effort, the IFPS has launched an international campaign in defense of Geert Wilders and his freedom of speech.
To support these efforts, we urge you to contribute to the Geert Wilders Defense Fund. Donation information can be found at the IFPS website at http://www.internationalfreepresssociety.org.